Marianella Watman, founder of Popup Brands spent some time with our Femmeforce Group last month. Truly inspirational story about some of the gender and age bias she encountered as a female entrepreneur and the strategies she used to deal with it.
1. “If you don’t want to crash into someone, don’t look at them”
One of the first questions Marianella was asked: how she coped with the bias that young women face? She referred back to when she was learning to snowboard. Her instructor told her that if she wanted to avoid crashing into something, or someone, then simply to look away and focus on where she wanted to go. She said she used this notion when meeting with an investor with her co-founder and husband. To her frustration, even though it was her idea, the investor addressed all his questions to her husband. She refused to let it bother her and instead focussed her energy on where she was going, instead of what was in her way.
2. Join a Female Support Network
Being an entrepreneur can be a lonely place, with very few resources and support. She used a co-working space but it was male-dominated and she didn’t feel she was able to lean on her fellow entrepreneurs for support. When in San Francisco she was invited to CBA’s “Women in Focus” dinner and met with a whole group of fellow female entrepreneurs, instantly connecting with them. She recognised that there is a different kind of support and understanding that women can provide each other.
3. Do everything well!
Age bias is certainly a challenge, especially for young women. The business community assume that young entrepreneurs simply don’t have enough experience or knowledge to succeed and so don’t take them seriously. Marianella’s response to this was simple: “Do everything well. If you prove your model and deliver on everything you promise, you gain respect.”
4. Stick to what you believe in your heart
Self-doubt is natural when you are spending all your time pitching a new idea. Marianella’s idea; that the commercial property space would be disrupted in the same way the domestic and travel accommodation sector had been was rejected by so many property landlords she met - “More fool them!” she thought. She refused to let these disappointments get to her. Today, many of those once-skeptical landlords are Popup Brands customers!
5. Own your time
Being self-employed and trying to build a business can become all-consuming and pretty soon you can become a workaholic. Marianella was very strict about putting “barriers” around her time and she firmly believes that kept her sane: “But that’s always a work in progress!” she says.
It is wonderful to see, that in just two years, Pop-up Brands is expanding internationally - jas predicted in this Sydney Morning Herald, BusinessDay article. Marianella is completely re-inventing the short-term leasing business. As well as helping landlords to get revenue from vacant plots, the online service helps new retail brands find space quickly and easily. Popup Brands didn’t just “pop up”. It took hard work and resilience to break through the bias that most female entrepreneurs face every day.